In what could be Philadelphia’s last death penalty case, prosecutors are seeking an execution for Robert Lark in a 1979 killing. Some 120 death penalty cases have been overturned in Pennsylvania. Of those, only three people have been returned to death row. No one has been executed in the state since 1999.
It’s been almost 40 years since someone walked into a Philadelphia fast-food store and shot the owner, Tae Bong Cho, in the back of the head. Robert Lark, 63, was sentenced to death in 1985 for the crime and has been on death row ever since. In 2012, he won a new trial, arguing that the jury selection had been tainted with racial bias, reports Philly.com. On Wednesday, Philadelphia prosecutors asked a jury to convict him once again, and sentence him to death. Some have called it Philadelphia’s last death penalty case. Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for District Attorney, has pledged not to seek the punishment, while the Republican, Beth Grossman, told Philadelphia Magazine it may be economically infeasible. Gov. Tom Wolf has placed a moratorium on executions.
Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, counts 120 death penalty cases that have been overturned in Pennsylvania. Of those, only three people have been returned to death row. No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999. “As a general policy matter, you have to question the pursuit of the death penalty against a defendant who is in his 60s, and ask whether it is a wise and reasonable use of resources. As a practical matter, most people whose death sentences are overturned in Pennsylvania are not resentenced to death,” said Dunham. If Lark were to be convicted and resentenced to death, he would likely be in his 70s before his appeals are exhausted and he’d be eligible for execution.